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Writing for Children: How to Write a Children's Book, Writing for Magazines, Getting Paid for Writing, Getting Published

Do you want to learn how to write a children's book? Make money writing for children's magazines? Every Friday the Writing for Children podcast publishes from The Institute of Children's Literature. Since 1969, ICL has taught over 470,205 aspiring writers. Listen to the director of both The Institute for Writers and The Institute of Children's Literature and bestselling children's author Katie Davis host the show as she focuses on the craft of writing for children. She talks about how to write a children’s book, how to write for children’s magazines, how to get paid for your writing, and how to get published in the world of kidlit. There are listener questions, with answers from the experts at the Institute, plus hard-to-find resources, tips, and links included in every week's show notes.
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Now displaying: Category: craft of writing
Oct 13, 2017

CLEANING OUT THE JUNK DRAWER

Personally, I love revising. I love the process of carving really good prose out of potentially questionable prose. For some, revision is more of a necessary evil, and one you must constantly, consciously focus on or else the old "let's make up a new story instead" nature can take over, and you may end up sending things out that really aren't ready. I've critiqued a lot of pieces of students and clients, often after it’s been rejected, and I'd say the number one reason a good piece doesn't get accepted is that it's good, but it's not ready. It could have been great, but the writer stopped at good enough.

Perhaps sometimes "good enough" will get you the contract and get you published. But, if you’re self publishing it'll also tend to get reviews about "uneven pacing" or "rushed endings" or even just reviews with the word "rough" thrown in. Revision is about smooth. It smooths the raw edges where the writer's intent bashes against the writer's speed. Revision fixes continuity errors. It searches for the theme and makes it clearer and cleaner. Revision gets rid of most (though probably not all) typos and grammar errors. Revision makes sure the work is orderly.

In some ways, revision is a bit like cleaning out your junk drawer. To find out how, listen to the full episode.

What's your question?

Tell us and we'll answer your writing questions on the podcast. Go to this link and leave your question: http://www.writingforchildren.com/speak.

Every writer needs a fresh set of eyes.
Submit your manuscript to our critique service and one of our instructors will give you a full critique to make your story the best it can be before you send it to that perfect agent or publisher. Go to https://www.instituteforwriters.com/critique-service/

Oct 6, 2017

FIVE THINGS WORTH SWEATING OVER
There are some mistakes editors see so often that they've become sore spots, things they simply think writers ought to take the time to overcome. Every single one of them is something I've done at one time or another, so I'm not saying these mistakes are deal breakers or will keep you from ever being published, but they are so common that they're worth making their correction part of every single revision. So here are five small things that can make a big impression of the wrong kind if you do them regularly.

1. WHAT’S YOUR NAME?
Make note of your characters' names and how to spell them. It seems an unlikely mistake but I honestly cannot count the number of times I've seen writers forget how they were spelling a character's name (and I've done it myself). A character named Rachel will suddenly become Rachael. A character called Bill through half the story will suddenly be called Will or Billy. A similar mistake to forgetting the character's name, is when we change the character's name but miss a few instances of the old name. So a character will be named Xavier, except when he's being call Phillip (this often happens when the character was originally named Philip and then the writer decided on the more exotic "Xavier" so a quick search and replace changed all the Philip references to Xavier, but unfortunately it left behind all the times the writer accidentally spelled the name with an extra i.)

To learn four other details you should pay attention to in the revision process, listen to the full episode.

 

What's your question?

Tell us and we'll answer your writing questions on the podcast. Go to this link and leave your question: http://www.writingforchildren.com/speak.

Every writer needs a fresh set of eyes.
Submit your manuscript to our critique service and one of our instructors will give you a full critique to make your story the best it can be before you send it to that perfect agent or publisher. Go to https://www.instituteforwriters.com/critique-service/

Jul 7, 2017

MAKE A LIST AND CHECK IT TWICE

As you work through your revision and polish up your work, don’t forget dialogue. Few things can do more for your story than good dialogue, so it’s worthwhile to get it right.

___Check that all spoken dialogue is enclosed in quotation marks and that punctuation occurs inside the quotation marks. [Enclosing all punctuation within the quotes is standard style of most American publishers.]

___Only spoken words go in quotes, thoughts do not need to be set off with quotation marks. Some writers use italics to set off thoughts.

___The best verb for tagging your dialogue is “said.” Use other verbs when they truly add to the moment. And do not use verbs as speech tags unless they actually describe speech -- “sneered” or “snorted” and the like are not speech tags.

For the rest of the checklist, listen to the full episode.

 

Do you have questions about how the children's publishing industry works?

Tell us and we'll answer your writing questions on the podcast. Go to this link and leave your question: http://www.writingforchildren.com/speak.

 

Before you hit send...
Submit your manuscript to our critique service and one of our instructors will give you a full critique to make your story the best it can be before you send it to that perfect agent or publisher. Go to https://www.instituteforwriters.com/critique-service/

 

Apr 28, 2017

FIVE COMMON CHARACTER MOTIVATIONs OF VALUE TO WRITERS

In any story, a character must do something. A character who just bobs along on the current of everyone else's actions and decisions isn’t worthy of being in your story, and definitely isn’t worthy of leading your story.

Even if this character reminds you of someone you know in real life, the needs of a good story will be in direct conflict with a completely passive character. So your characters must do something. And their reason for acting must have clear and believable motivation.

One of Newton's Laws is that an object at rest tends to remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. Humans can be a bit that way as well. There are lots of times we’ll laze around unless something motivates us and forces us into action.

This is particularly true when the needed action involves overcoming obstacles (which can be challenging, and scary, and painful. All things we tend to resist). The motivation you provide for your character must be sufficiently strong for readers to believe it would keep this person on this path of action.

Listen to the episode for five common character motivations of value to writers for young readers. Read more in our show notes: http://writingforchildren.com/049

 

What's the writing question you have but are afraid to ask?

Tell us and we'll answer your writing questions on the podcast. Go to this link and leave your question: http://www.writingforchildren.com/speak.

 

Does your manuscript need a fresh set of eyes?
Submit your manuscript to our critique service and one of our instructors will give you a full critique to make your story the best it can be. Go to https://www.instituteforwriters.com/critique-service/

 

Feb 3, 2017

A PRIMER ON POINT OF VIEW


The designations for Point of View are dependent upon how the main character is presented. In first person, the book is told directly by the main character, such as Barbara Park does in the Junie B. Jones books: “My name is Junie B. Jones. The B stands for Beatrice, except I don’t like Beatrice. I just like B and that’s all.” First person point of view offers an up-close connection with your main character but can result in too much “telling” instead of “showing.” Also, first person point of view can create difficulties in introducing physical description of the main character. Try to avoid the “look into a mirror” method of description since most editors consider that method clichéd.


Many character driven stories: the Amber Brown series and the Junie B. Jones series, for example, rely upon first person to clearly present the nuances of the main character. Many first person novels also include humor based on the main character’s unusual perceptions of people and events.

For best uses of second and third person point of views, listen to the full episode.

Read more in our show notes: http://writingforchildren.com/037

 

You've got questions. We've got answers.

Let us answer your writing questions on the podcast. Go to this link and leave your question: http://www.writingforchildren.com/speak.

 

Does your manuscript need a fresh pair of eyes? Get a critique from an ICL instructor.
Go to https://www.instituteforwriters.com/critique-service/

Dec 2, 2016

8 INGREDIENTS OF A GOOD STORY

1. A cup of plot. A plot that proceeds logically from beginning to end, giving the reader a sense that this is exactly how the story must be told.


2. Four tablespoons of conflict. Okay, I’m dropping the recipe joke… let’s just get on with this! Conflict is an essential part of a good story plot. So, who or what is your main character in conflict with?


3. Dialogue. Exciting dialogue that brings the reader into the story. Dialogue where children
don’t talk like adults, and where all the children and adults don’t talk like each other. Make each
character a separate person and they will automatically speak differently and have more
interesting things to say.

 

To find out the other 5 ingredients, listen to this episode.

Read more in our show notes: http://writingforchildren.com/028

 

We want YOUR questions!

The faculty of the Institute of Children’s Literature wants to hear from you. Let us answer your writing questions on the podcast. Go to this link and leave your question: http://www.writingforchildren.com/speak. If it’s featured on the show, you’ll receive an awesome embroidered ICL all cotton baseball cap.

What’s Working in Your Manuscript, What’s Not, and How to Fix It:
Go to https://www.instituteforwriters.com/critique-service/

Nov 25, 2016

SERVING UP TEMPTING TITLES
When it comes to titles, most writers fall into two camps: those who seem to effortless come up with extremely cool titles like “Pistol Packing Paleontologist” (an article by Kelly Milner Halls) and those who struggle and strive to come up with something that doesn’t make an editor nod off in mid read. If you’re in the first group, excellent. If you’re in the second group, there is hope. It’ll take a little more effort but you can learn to whip up some tempting titles with the right recipe.


TITLES ARE NOT LABELS
When you’re labeling things, you choose the most information in the shortest form. The Ziploc bags in your freezer probably
say “hamburger” and “chicken,” not “tempting treat” or “future yum.” The problem with labeling an article or story is that a good label leaves little to the imagination. A good label for the story would tell the most important part and basically spoil the surprise. For example, Very Hungry Caterpillar might be labeled “A Caterpillar Turns into a Butterfly,” and Harry Potter might be labeled “Wizard Boy Saves the Day.” A label gives away the surprise.


You never want to give away the surprise.

To find out how give your title some oomph, listen to this episode.

Read more in our show notes: http://writingforchildren.com/027

 

We want YOUR questions!

The faculty of the Institute of Children’s Literature wants to hear from you. Let us answer your writing questions on the podcast. Go to this link and leave your question: http://www.writingforchildren.com/speak. If it’s featured on the show, you’ll receive an awesome embroidered ICL all cotton baseball cap.

What’s Working in Your Manuscript, What’s Not, and How to Fix It:
Go to https://www.instituteforwriters.com/critique-service/

Jul 8, 2016

It’s the Writing for Children Podcast, with your host, Katie Davis. Katie’s an author and is the Director of the Institute of Children’s Literature, where, since 1969, aspiring writers have learned to write for children and get published.

Young children do not consider themselves unreasonable. They also don’t consider themselves tiny and adorable. They don’t consider their arms to be tiny, their hands to be tiny or their faces to be tiny. All of those things are adult perspectives and they grow out of adults writing about kids from the viewpoint of adults.

Does that mean you can’t write kid stories from life? Sure you can.

Listen to the show to learn more!

Reminders:

Whoohoo! Congratulations to our two winners of the podcast launch giveaway:

  • Laura Ceville
  • Julie Thompson

You'll be getting the huge package of writer's courses and products. Thanks to all who entered!

We have our ongoing writing for children contest right now with $1,300 in cash prizes. Every contest is following by an instructional webinar with the faculty from ICL. All the info is on our homepage, at the bottom.

The Institute for Writers market guides are available here and if you want your odds of getting published to improve, get either the Book Markets or Magazine Markets for Children’s Writers. Book Markets, for example, has

  • over 1,311 (total) entries
  • 101 all-new listings (in total)
  • ways to find out where the latest literary agents are!

 This week's tips are linked in the downloadable show notes:

Research: A Writer’s Best Friend and A Writer’s Worst Enemy

“I have always considered “Write what you know” one of the most useless pieces of advice a beginning author gets…”

 

Clean Teen Publishing

Accepts teen and new adult manuscripts. 

 

Rainbow Rumpus

The magazine for youth with LGBT parents.

Rainbow Rumpus pays $300 per story on publication.

 

Another episode you might like:

Episode 002 - Three Keys To Writing Nonfiction For Children

 

Don’t forget to leave your questions:

The faculty of the Institute of Children’s Literature answers the podcast questions.

You can leave your question at http://www.speakpipe.com/WFC.

 

“My journey began with an ICL course and now I have five traditionally published books (in Christian teen fiction trilogy, middle grade fiction, and marriage nonfiction) and a cheeky little self-published picture book.”

Laura Caron Thomas, ICL graduate (Writing for Children and Teens and Writing Children’s Books)

 

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